by Arthur Shone

After twelve months in the wilderness, following the dreaded foot and mouth outbreak in 2001, the feel good factor finally returned to racing between the flags in the North Western area .The Meynell & South Staffs meeting at Weston Park on Sunday February 17th 2002 opened our season in style. It was the tonic that most of us needed and the 8 race card produced a cracking afternoons sport, which was watched by a bumper crowd of 10,000 plus.

The opening Members race saw a huge punt on Sir Stanley Clarke’s Listen Timmy, the former winner of the John Hughes Memorial race at Aintree four seasons ago. The Coral Reef gelding had the assistant of the useful amateur David Crosse in the saddle but it was to no avail and the partnership had to settle for second best to Native Cove who sprinted clear from the second last fence under Lenny Hicks to win going away by 20 lengths at the line from the even money jolly. As for winning  trainer Edmund Haddock, he was recording his third consecutive win with his horse in the race.

However Sir Stanley Clarke and his jockey David Crosse did not leave the Shropshire course empty handed, following the smooth 3-length success of McHattie in the Mens’ Open, who beat Rusty Fellow under David Mansell readily by 3 lengths. The winning owner also sponsored this race. The winner is trained at Limply Stoke, Nr Bath by Paul Keen. The reason that Sir Stanley has his horses trained so far away is because of his 30-year friendship with Liz Harrington who sold him Barton, she is an owner with Paul. The disappointment of the race was the second favourite Weak Moment, who was pulled up by Alistair Crow, who said afterwards that the horse never travelled well in the race, and he added he ran as if he had some sort of stomach ache.

However Hadnall trainer Sheila Crow ended up taking centre stage with a double at the course, with both winners ridden by rider Joe Downes, who works for Sheila. Previously he had ridden two winners for the yard, but doubled his tally here and in doing so he recorded his first ever double in the plate. The first leg came in the first division of the Confined Maiden with Oh So Sure, who quickened up well after the second last to win comfortably by 4 lengths from Karzhang, with the Malpas trained Pete Morris runner Mr Moonbeam an eye-catching third, a further 2.5 lengths away .The winner is owned by Don Edwards who has had winners in the past with the Crows with Serenz and Mr Blake. Edward (Crow) was delighted that the yard got off the mark for the season, he said,” That feels so good, we have had a few horses placed, but once you get off the mark for the season its’ a big relief, because then you know that we’re going the right way. The winner is a lovely horse who will improve from this race, and I am pleased for Don who is one of our long standing owners.”

The second leg came with Sams Day in the second division of the Restricted, the getting out stakes, which must have sent punters home happy. It was a hell of finish; approaching the last fence there were three horses in the air together, but on the run to the line Sams Day prevailed by three parts on a length from the fast finishing Wild Edric with Lestat, a further half a length back in third. The winner is owned by Gareth Samuel, who also has the useful Whatafellow in training with Sheila, who said afterwards,” We have always thought this horse had plenty of ability, he proved today that he is a very good horse. I almost never ran him because of the ground, but he acted on alright.”

Rumours had been rife before racing that the Crow runner Templebreedy was a formality was the second division of the Maiden, the fact that Richard Burton was booked for the ride added fuel to the whispers. Bookies that opened up even money were nearly knocked over in the rush to get on. The son of Torenaga went off at an unbackable 1-2,with many firms going without the jolly. The old enemy got a right result, with the race going to Stepquick who won readily under William Hill. The winner is trained at Wothenhall by Willie Bryan for his father in law David Smith, who is the chairman of the South Shropshire Hunt.

The easiest winner of the day came in the Confined race, when Gary Hanmer came home on Allow by a distance, to land the spoils from Bishops Hall with insulting ease. The winner is owned by Kev Rowlands and trained at Malpas by his partner Nicky Hugo, who trained horses under rules previously in South Africa for over 20 years.

Bishops Castle trainer Pam Sykes recorded her third winner of the season  following the smooth success of Cascum Lad in the first division of the Restricted, who was given a very confident ride by Richard Burton, beating the one paced  Joshua’s Vision, going away by 4 lengths with Felloo a poor third. Pam trains the winner for a syndicate headed by her partner David Chilton which consists of himself, Mrs Sally Edwards and Mrs Wendy Edwards. This was Burton’s 5th winner of the season and it’s no secret that the National riders championship is his aim this season, the fact that Mark Hill has the Shropshire rider best priced at 5-2 says enough.

There is an old saying in racing which is quite true, that you can give away weight by not lengths. This was demonstrated to perfection in the Ladies Open by Sue Sharratt aboard the aptly named Stretching, who slipped the field and won an enterprising race from the favourite Hags Way by 12 lengths. The winner is trained at Kidderminster by former rider Jo Priest for a syndicate, which is headed by her old boss Mel Lloyd, with co owners Alan Goodwin and Clive Bissell.